When Steve and Lynette Mathis decided to get out of California it didn't matter where they went, they were open to finding a new home “almost literally anywhere.”
Crisscrossing the country looking for the perfect spot, they gave Oklahoma City a quick visit — after all, Steve had graduated from John Marshall High School and his mother lived in Shawnee.
But other places caught their interest — maybe Maine, maybe New Mexico. So the Mathises kept looking.
It was during a high school reunion in 2011 that Steve ran into his “old debate partner,” Oklahoma City attorney and California boomeranger Jay Shanker, who encouraged Mathis to take another look at the renaissance under way in their hometown.
The Mathises checked out an open house in Mesta Park and soon began their Oklahoma City home search in earnest.
The 1907 classic American Foursquare home the Mathises eventually bought at 819 NW 16 is one of six on this year's Mesta Park Holiday Home Tour.
The annual event begins with a candlelight tour Saturday, Dec. 7 from 4 to 8 p.m. and continues with an afternoon tour the next day from 1 to 5 p.m.
Steve Mathis, who turned a history degree from the University of Oklahoma into a feature film production career in Hollywood, said he thought he was leaving Oklahoma for good when he set off for Southern California in the 1970s.
His ties to Los Angeles deepened. He and his wife raised two children in the area. But eventually, he said, it was time “to look for a place to leave L.A. for.”
Lynette Mathis said the property they bought “was a mess,” but they knew they had found the project they were looking for.
Steve, who built a career as a gaffer (an electrician in charge of lighting), was working in New Orleans on the recent release “Ender's Game” while flying in and out of Oklahoma City on weekends.
“We remodeled long distance,” Lynette said.
Teaming with contractor Jerry Dickson, the Mathises re-allocated space in the main living areas, recreated the master suite, and re-imagined the overall flow of the home.
Downstairs, original hardwood floors were stripped and refinished so that they gleam like new.
In the kitchen, the Mathises installed new cabinetry, new flooring and new appliances, eliminating a “cramped” flow while discovering a new breakfast nook and shelving.
Another downstairs discovery: room for a new guest bathroom in what had been a closet off the kitchen, where Lynette created what she calls “the Moulin Rouge Room,” decorated with props and materials from the set of the Baz Luhrmann film on which Steve worked.
Upstairs, the couple found an eclectic charm in retaining the dark-stained, narrow-plank hardwood flooring everywhere except the master bedroom.
The original four bedrooms have been reconfigured into three — a generous master suite and two rooms that serve as office space and guest rooms.
After nearly a year of renovations, the Mathises officially became Oklahomans once again on Sept. 4, their anniversary.
Across-the-street neighbor Trina Morrison, chairman of this year's Holiday Tour for the Mesta Park Neighborhood Association, said she watched the Mathises' renovations with interest over the past several months.
“I was a little timid since (they) were new, but I asked if they would be interested in putting their house on our tour,” Morrison said.
Lynette was quick to pick up the story.
“We told her, ‘Are you kidding? That's why we bought it!'” she said.
Morrison said it wasn't exactly by design, but rather a pleasant coincidence, that all homes on this year's tour are located on NW 16.
Other featured homes include:
• Keri and Reagan Bradford's home at 615 NW 16.
• Anne Zachritz and Jane Ann Norris's home at 828 NW 16.
• Jonathan and Annie Middlebrooks' home at 920 NW 16.
In addition to open houses, two homes will show “featured mantels.”
• Don and Summer Steel's home at 912 NW 16.
• Chris and Trina Morrison's home at 824 NW 16.
In addition, state Sen. Al McAffrey and John David Stinson will offer a “refreshment porch” at their home at 720 NW 16.
Advance tickets, available at www.MestaPark.org and select retail outlets, are $12 for adults (18 years and older) and $5 for children 6 to 17. Tickets will also be available at the door of each home for $15 for adults and $7 for children, with children 5 and under admitted free.